- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 23, 2019

President Trump vowed Tuesday to punish Guatemala, saying the country backed out of a deal that could have gone a long way toward stopping illegal immigrants coming from points south.

Mr. Trump, on Twitter, said he’s considering imposing tariffs, taxing remittances of money sent back from Guatemalans working in the U.S., or even “the ‘BAN’” — though he didn’t elaborate on what that might look like.

The U.S. had been hoping to sign what’s known as a “safe third country” deal with Guatemala. Under that deal, Guatemala would agree to take back any migrants who cross its territory en route to the U.S. and who then claim asylum.

The theory behind such agreements is that asylum-seekers, who are supposed to be desperately fleeing persecution, should make their requests in the first “safe” country they arrive in, rather than forum-shop for the best circumstances, which would suggest they’re regular economic migrants rather than true refugees.

Guatemala’s geographic position between the rest of Central America and Mexico would have meant that asylum-seekers from further south could have been denied a chance at asylum in the U.S., if the agreement had been signed. That could have particularly helped with the flow of people from El Salvador and Honduras.

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales had been slated to travel to the U.S. to sign the deal, but Guatemalan news reports said he canceled the trip after objections were raised within his country.

The U.S. and Guatemala had issued a joint statement Monday promising better cooperation, but ducking the issue of a safe third country agreement.

Instead, they focused on a deal to grant new protections to Guatemalan farm workers who want seasonal jobs in the U.S.

“By strengthening the relationship between the two countries through such agreements, the U.S. and Guatemala, as partners, will better protect the most vulnerable populations of Guatemala while confronting irregular migration,” the two countries said in their joint statement.

Mr. Trump on Tuesday lashed out, saying the relationship had become lopsided.

Guatemala, which has been forming Caravans and sending large numbers of people, some with criminal records, to the United States, has decided to break the deal they had with us on signing a necessary Safe Third Agreement. We were ready to go,” the president tweeted.

He suggested punishment will be coming: “Now we are looking at the “BAN,” Tariffs, Remittance Fees, or all of the above. Guatemala has not been good. Big U.S. taxpayer dollars going to them was cut off by me 9 months ago.”

Guatemala this year has become the biggest sender of illegal immigrants to the U.S., outstripping Mexico for the first time ever.

One region of the country saw more than 3% of its population pick up and leave, headed for the U.S.

Mr. Trump’s threats of retaliation could be powerful, with Guatemala’s economy heavily reliant on external interests.

Remittances of money sent back home by Guatemalans living abroad accounts for 12% of the country’s gross domestic product, according to the World Bank.



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